It’s time to say goodbye to gas stoves, furnaces and propane heating in the state of New York. A new law will ban the use of natural gas in most new buildings under seven stories in 2026 and then in 2029 for larger buildings. This follows legislation passed in 2021 that prohibits natural gas hookups in new buildings by the end of the year and could mark a turning point in our quest to make buildings more sustainable.
The new law encourages the use of climate-friendly appliances such as heat pumps and induction stoves in most residential buildings across the state. However, there are some exceptions. Large commercial and industrial buildings such as hospitals, restaurants, stores, and laundromats will be exempt from the new legislation.
The way forward
Methane, the main component of natural gas, has more than 80 times as much warming power as CO2 in the first 20 years. It’s not as long-lived as CO2, but it’s also a key contributor to climate change. That’s why scientists are asking governments to address this fossil fuel as a fast way to decrease emissions — a sort of “low hanging fruit” to reduce emissions.
The law comes after US Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr said in January that gas stoves were a significant source of indoor pollution linked to childhood asthma. He suggested the Biden administration could be working to ban them in new homes but then clarified the government wouldn’t be taking any items already there.
New York is the sixth-largest natural gas consumer among the states, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Natura gas fuels 46% of the state’s electricity generation. The residential sector is the largest user, accounting for over one-third of all natural gas used. Three out of every five households use natural gas for heating.
The state’s zero-emission legislation would prevent over six million metric tons of carbon emissions, according to studies by the nonprofit RMI. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of over 1.3 million cars. The ban on natural gas will also help the state deliver on its pledge to source 70% of its electricity from renewables by 2030.
While environmental groups celebrated the move, Republicans condemned it as federal overreach. Labor unions, business groups, and gas companies said a ban would trigger higher costs for buildings, though this is unclear. The mandate also seems unpopular with residents. Over 50% said in a recent survey they opposed phasing out gas stoves in new homes.
However, the move against gas stoves is picking up steam.
In 2019, Berkeley became the first city in the US to pass a code banning natural gas hookups in new buildings. Other cities, such as San Francisco and New York City, then followed in 2020 and 2021. But many trying to do the same have run into brick walls. Over a dozen states, mostly in Republican-controlled areas, passed legislation that prohibits cities from banning natural gas.
“New York State is leading the way in ending America’s devastating addiction to fossil fuels. The rest of the country must now catch up. New York’s bold move to become the first state in the nation to prohibit fossil fuels in new construction is undeniably huge,” Food & Water Watch Northeast Region Director Alex Beauchamp said in a statement.